A friend recently asks me, “Did you ever have days/weeks/months you felt homeschooling wasn’t for you and your family?” I encourage her that it might be a little too early to give up without really giving it a try. And if she is, indeed, serious about going the alternative, her decision should be firm. Otherwise she will end up second guessing it thereafter.
Thinking her question through though, I realize what would’ve probably been more beneficial was relating times in the past 12 years I have felt like calling it quits and what I did (or what happened) that somehow put me back on track.
The first few recollections are those past events that brought about big changes in our family life and caused me to doubt whether I could still homeschool. For instance, in the first year of “officially” homeschooling our two girls, ages 5 1/2 and 4, we added a son into the family.
The girls were very young and it would have been quite easy to allow a relaxed and flexible homeschool schedule to complement caring for an infant, housekeeping, and at the same time get enough rest for myself. I read how many homeschoolers nursed their newborns all the while supervising their kids’ seatwork and reading to them. Maybe this would have been the case if only nursing and my seemingly sparse milk did not become an issue. It was such a struggle for me that my husband decided to defer his studies so he could help me out at home.
To complicate matters, in early spring (3 months after my son was born), we decided to put our house in the market and it sold on its first open house. So, on top of all that was going on, house-hunting and packing were added to the list. It was a good thing we had 4 months before possession date in late June.
Although I probably asked myself during this time whether homeschooling was really possible when life never seemed to settle down, somehow quitting wasn’t an option yet. First of all, my girls were younger than first graders and we had, at least, 8 more years of grade school (assuming we kept at this through elementary) to catch up. We were registered as “traditional homeschoolers”, which meant we had quite a lot of freedom to educate our children in a way that best met our needs.
Since the idea that my child should be learning such and such by this age hardly occurred to me, I kept the status quo. In between day to day chores and moving houses, I managed to squeeze in time to continue teaching the girls phonics, writing, and math. Lots of times, we just relaxed, enjoyed their baby brother, and read. Besides, I was also too scared to let my little girls, young as they were, out into public school.
Looking back though, life did settle for a while and we all adjusted. The girls kept to their programs and we continued reading more. I was borrowing books from the library by the dozen. We were reading so much even our 8-month old was really into his chunky board books.
Two years after our son was born, we found ourselves in the same scenario. Then, with a 2nd grader, a 1st grader, and a 2-year old, we had our fourth child the same winter month we had the third one. At the same time, my husband’s new job required us to move the family to the next Canadian province by June that year.
Learning from my last experience, I decided to make our homeschooling experience that coming year as stress free as possible by ensuring we had everything we needed. We were going to be in a new place altogether (renting for awhile), my husband going to work everyday, and our youngest less than a year old by then. So I decided to use our, this time sufficient, provincial funding to purchase everything we needed so that library visits could be done away with until we settled.
School was quite pleasurable for us that year even as we excitedly explored the new surroundings we found ourselves in. We kept our days simple. Reading still took a lot of our time. We did science and art sporadically. I don’t recall doing much projects, hands-on crafts, music, or experiments. But, the girls really got their 3Rs (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) down cold and we chewed our way into every last bit of book that came in our shipment of materials.
Thus, when we had our fifth baby (second son) 4 years after the last relocation and we decided to move again when he was almost a year old, I just assumed homeschooling would go on wherever. Before we left Canada, I made sure we had our school books for the coming year as public libraries are nonexistent in the Philippines.
Relocations and new additions are some of the major issues that challenged our decision to homeschool but they are not the only ones. The difficulty of running a family of five children is one. The crossroad related to homeschooling through high school is another. For the former, we learned to see that homeschooling actually made the management of a larger family more doable. Children are easily trained, habits are much realistically formed, work is equally shared or delegated. Homeschooling is also very economical. For the latter, it is basically our lack of options that led us to conclude that homeschooling through high school was still the best alternative for our family.
To name a few more possible obstacles:
- age gaps that make it more difficult to do some subjects simultaneously
- differences in personalities/abilities/learning styles that require different approaches, programs, methods
- differences in personalities/abilites/learning styles that may result in inter-relational challenges
- curricula not working or having a tough time finding the suitable one
- inaccessibility of materials or good programs or quality extra curricular activities
- outside accountability that served as additional pressure or did not give enough of the support needed to the already complex nature of homeschooling
At some point or another, these obstacles will loom large against any homeschooling family. But just like the more major shifts in life, there seems to be always a way to turn these challenges around or “attack” them, experimenting constantly until the solution is realised even if just for the meantime. Of course, as always, the assumption is that homeschooling is an endeavour that God has called such a family to undertake.